News / Arts & Entertainment

Palestinians Unite Behind Gaza Strip 'Arab Idol' Star

A banner depicting Mohammed Assaf, a contestant in the TV talent show 'Arab Idol', is seen on a building in the West Bank city of Ramallah May 13, 2013.A banner depicting Mohammed Assaf, a contestant in the TV talent show 'Arab Idol', is seen on a building in the West Bank city of Ramallah May 13, 2013.
x
A banner depicting Mohammed Assaf, a contestant in the TV talent show 'Arab Idol', is seen on a building in the West Bank city of Ramallah May 13, 2013.
A banner depicting Mohammed Assaf, a contestant in the TV talent show 'Arab Idol', is seen on a building in the West Bank city of Ramallah May 13, 2013.
Reuters
The fractious factions in the Gaza Strip and across the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories have found one voice to unite behind - a 22-year-old youth singing songs about a lost homeland on the Middle East's version of 'American Idol'.
 
Gaza native Mohammed Assaf has become the first Palestinian to qualify for 'Arab Idol', a TV talent show staged in Beirut, in which singers perform for judges and voting viewers.
 
He is now one of the last 10 contestants - largely thanks to his potent mix of good looks and emotional lyrics about ancestral Palestinian lands.
 
“He is the pride of Palestine. He broke the siege with his voice,'' said fan Rehaf al-Batniji, referring to Israel's blockade of Gaza, seized by the Jewish state, along with the West Bank, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
 
She stood in front of a large mural of Assaf at a Gaza restaurant, one of hundreds of posters covering buildings and walls usually marked with political slogans.
 
Assaf's songs blare out of radios - a counter-balance to their usual broadcasts of bleak economic and political news.
 
Politicians have raced to endorse him and Palestinian mobile phone company Jawwal has cut the price of text messages to make it easier for supporters to vote.
 
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, from the Fatah movement that holds sway in the West Bank, phoned the singer in Beirut and urged all Arabs to vote for him.
 
“The president stressed his support and backing to artist Assaf, whose talent represented pride to Palestine,'' said a statement by the Palestinian official news agency WAFA.
 
The Gaza Strip is ruled by the rival Islamist Hamas faction - a group that disapproves of non-Islamic songs and the kind of Western-style excess on full display in TV talent shows.
 
But even Hamas has come as close as it possibly can to showing support.
 
“He comes from a good, respected and known family,'' Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said on Facebook.
 
Assaf first made his name inside Gaza at the age of 11, when he recorded a song in 2001 called “O Town be Strong'', at the height of Israeli incursions in the enclave during a Palestinian uprising.
 
On Arab Idol, broadcast by Saudi-owned MBC Group, he has performed with a traditional black-and-white Palestinian scarf around his shoulders.
 
His performances have included “Flying Bird'' which lists the cities of historical Palestine and another song urging Palestinians to unite.
 
The program's celebrity judges from across the Arab world - where the Palestinian cause reverberates - have piled praise on the singer.
 
“I see the Arab idol standing before my eyes,'' said Egyptian composer Hassan El Shafei.
 
“Your voice is made of diamond,'' added Ahlam, a famous singer from the United Arab Emirates.
 
Listening in was Assaf's mother, Umm Shadi Assaf, watching the show in a restaurant near her home in Gaza's Khan Younis refugee camp.
 
Her son had only one wish, she told Reuters, beaming with pride, “to go out and make the world listen to his voice''.

You May Like

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: fred from: Australia
May 14, 2013 9:13 AM
Iam very proud of the palestenian singer mohammed assaf brinig unity among palestenian and hopefuly can bring peace with the jewish people .Its about time both side should have harmony and love songs intead of killing each other ..the whole world want to see peace and hipe ASSAF can make the diffrences ....
In Response

by: spring-cleaner from: springfield, ca
May 20, 2013 6:16 PM
yours is about the kindest, finest, and non-politicaly-charged posts that i have seen in the past 15 years.

there are so many israelis that are also singers, artists, doctors, scientists, etc that wish the very same thing. To pursue the goal of peace. Bless you.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings: Nnekai
|| 0:00:00
...  
🔇
X
August 26, 2015 2:42 PM
Nigerian singer, songwriter Nneka sits down with Border Crossings host Larry London to perform songs from her latest CD, "My Fairy Tales" and to talk about her inspirations and influences.

Nigerian singer, songwriter Nneka sits down with Border Crossings host Larry London to perform songs from her latest CD, "My Fairy Tales" and to talk about her inspirations and influences.